Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

God's Glory Appears: Living "in Christ"

VON BALTHASAR'S ETHICS ARE PAULINE. They heavily rely on the prevalent notion of St. Paul of living a life "in Christ," ἐν Χριστῷ. This phrase (or synonymous phrases such as "in the Lord" (ἐν κυρίῳ) or "in him") are peppered throughout St. Paul's letters, and they clearly envision an incorporation in Christ as do the related formula "with Christ" (σὺν Χριστῷ), "through Christ" (διὰ Χριστῷ), "of Christ" (Χριστοῦ), "for the Lord" (τῷ κυρίῳ) and the like which are also found in St. Paul's epistles. These might be called the "incorporationist formulae" of St. Paul and it is central feature of his moral theology.

The term is both indicative and imperative.  That is, it is used to both express an existing truth and a truth to which we must strive as an ideal.  Perhaps this notion is best encapsulated by the notion of "be what you are."   We are incorporated into Christ, so we ought to act as Christ. 

There are three aspects which may be gained from St. Paul's teaching and which prevail in von Balthasar's ethical theories.

First, the formula "in Christ" clearly envisions an intimate union between the individual Christian (and the Church) and  Christ. It is Christocentric.  This is a vital, symbiotic union, one which is of dynamic influence.  Indeed, St. Paul expresses this symbiosis, this dynamism in language that is reciprocal, where we ebb into Christ and he ebbs into us, to the point that there is a union of persons that can hardly be separated.  "Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me," St. Paul says in Galatians 2:20.  Von Balthasar shares in this Pauline idea, and sees, moreover, like Paul, the Eucharist as being its highest expression.  (1 Cor. 10-11; TD3.24) (Steck, 47)

The second aspect is what effect incorporation into Christ causes the individual Christian.  It is Christomorphic.  Here we come into the notion that incorporation into Christ results in Christ's image being put in man.  The Christian becomes an image, an icon (εἰκών) of the risen Christ. We are "to be conformed to the image of the Son" (τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ).  (Rom. 8:29)  We are therefore to imitate Christ, his poverty, his obedience, his humility, his willingness to suffer for others.  Within this notion is comprehended the imitatio Christi, the imitation of Christ.

 Ite, missa est.  
Go forth on your mission to bring the world to Christ!

Yet for von Balthasar, there is something more than incorporation and imitation in the Christian's ethical life.  A third aspect is complementary of the above two aspect.  Our incorporation into Christ, our efforts to become an image of Christ, both lead to the fact that were are to participate in the mission of Christ.  In von Balthasar's words: "For Paul [his being seized by God] means that he must respond to Christ's personal love by surrendering to him in faith and by devoting himself to his apostolic mission.  Thus en [i.e., 'in Christ'] becomes syn ['with Christ'], a participation in Christ's dying and rising and in his work (synergoi)."  Steck, 48 (quoting TD3.247)

Part of Christian living is "making Christ visible," and this task, this mission is part of all those who share in the one body of Christ, by incorporation, through the Eucharist, through conforming themselves to the Lord.

Ite missa est.  Go!  You are sent forth!

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